Can LPG be revived?
07 March 2007
One LPG crusader, Ingram Legge of the Greenfuel Company, certainly thinks so, as Hugh Hunston discovers
LPG could and should be given the chance by business car users to provide a bridgehead between conventionally powered vehicles and future alternative fuel sources.
That is the rallying call from Ingram Legge, director of the Bath-based Greenfuel Company, who claims that LPG, spurned by the fleet sector in recent years, offers a pragmatic, environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative to petrol and diesel.
He argues: "With proper promotion and marketing LPG can emerge from its position as a neglected and rejected Cinderella to supply fleets with a practical and green fuel source to those willing to open their minds and accept that lessons have been learned from the past."
Legge admits that poor equipment, inadequate reliability and a limited supply infrastructure alienated fleet operators, but maintains that Greenfuel and other suppliers have rectified those issues.
He says, too, that LPG's business car credentials are "very strong". While he cites £1600 as the conversion cost for a new 2.0-litre petrol Ford Mondeo, Legge highlights fuel running costs at half that of petrol and 60% to 70% lower than diesel, thanks largely to the fuel duty advantage LPG enjoys. And while servicing on average costs an extra £100 a year, Greenfuel claims CAP Monitor does not impose residual value penalties on converted cars, and that when petrol prices reached £1 a litre last year the demand for cars with LPG conversions increased.
“It has the potential to power six million cars in the UK.”
Legge also makes the eco and strategic cases for LPG, and says that the measurement of CO2 emissions alone as a way of protecting the environment is not the "Holy Grail parameter, the be all and end all".
He explains: "CO2 is important, and LPG cuts it [in comparison with petrol] by 10% at the tailpipe and 20% from well-to-wheel, but LPG, with 90% less NOx than petrol and virtually zero particulate emissions, offers massive air quality improvements."
Countering the argument that LPG is an imperfect, passe, non-renewable solution courtesy of its origins as a fossil fuel by-product, Legge argues: "It has the potential to power six million cars in the UK. It is also more strategically secure [than oil in light of the Middle East conflict] thanks to its predominant North Sea source and has a quite long supply timeframe.
"From a fleet manager's perspective it benefits from an increasingly mature supply network, too, up from 100 outlets to 1500 over the past nine years. There are a handful of E85 bio-ethanol pumps."
The Greenfuel Company will this year will launch a promotional campaign backed by the appointment of a fleet specialist, and although Legge recognises that "corporate wheels grind slowly" he is optimistic about "serious corporate players coming on board with up to 4000 cars within 12 months".
"Euro5 should start forcing the pace and the cost, particularly for diesels, so we feel ideally placed to provide an immediate realistic green business alternative," says Legge.